“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do.“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”
Two things need to be said. First, Bundy's opinions about black people don't change the merits, such as they may be, of his argument against the BLM. There are plenty of reasons, it seems, to presume his position wrong, but racism isn't one of them. That would be an ad hominem argument better applied not to Bundy but to his soon-to-be-former friends in the Republican media. They're the losers today because they've spent the last several years screaming at anyone who assumes that someone like Bundy might just be a racist. You have no right to slander us so, they cry, just because the current liberal statist chief executive happens to be black. They've tried to make the conversation about Obama rather than about race in general, arguing that the "race card" is used to mute criticism of the President in a manner Vladimir Putin might envy. The problem with their argument is that while you don't have to be racist to criticize Obama from the right, it doesn't follow that those who criticize Obama, or espouse an ideology hostile to Obama's policies, are categorically innocent of racism. Your opposition to Obama may be primarily ideological in nature, but you may still be a racist. Cliven Bundy doesn't oppose the BLM because he is a racist, but he's still a racist. Critics may expose a bias if they fail to be surprised by this revelation, but you can't tell them that their bias has no basis in fact. Republicans may insist that that each of them individually should be presumed innocent of bigotry until proven guilty, but they don't (yet!) get to make the rules of public discourse unilaterally and they can't stop their opponents from placing the burden of proof on Republicans in general on the question of race. Cynically speaking, calling Republicans racist is the equivalent of calling Democrats socialist. Inevitably, however, one charge must come closer to the truth than the other, and Bundy is just another weight in the balance.